Police dog Ingo and his handler, Officer Francisco Ibarra, were probably quite a team in their day. The German shepherd was undoubtedly a robust, smart, brave, loyal dog, and Ibarra likely really cared for his dog, as handlers almost always do.
But something seems to have gone very wrong after Ibarra retired. He had been fired “for cause” (some say it had to do with his dog biting a suspect) by the Watsonville, Calif., police department in 2010. It’s unclear from reports just when Ibarra adopted Ingo, who is now 5, or why Ingo was retired so early.
In mid-February, acting on an anonymous tip, the SPCA of Monterey County sent officers to check out Ibarra’s home. They found the severely skinny Ingo in the backyard. He weighed only 55 pounds — 25 pounds less than he should have. His hips and ribs protruded, and he scored a 1 out of 5 in the canine body condition score chart, with 1 being “emaciated.”
The SPCA gave Ibarra 24 hours to respond to their inquiry, but he didn’t, so officers took away the dog. After Ingo was under their care, he passed rocks and sand in his stool. It underscored how desperate the dog was for nutrition. The poor dog probably ate whatever he could find in the yard so he could fill his stomach.
SPCA veterinarians determined that Ingo had no health problems that would have caused him to be that skinny. Ingo has gained 15 pounds in the month since he was taken from Ibarra’s yard. He’s on a prescribed diet, and seems to be doing well.
“He is doing much better, doing great, getting attention every day,” the SPCA’s Sgt. Stacy Sanders said. “He’s enjoying life.”
Both Ingo’s and Ibarra’s futures are uncertain. Ibarra was charged last week with two counts of failing to take care of an animal. The sentence carries a maximum of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Ibarra probably won’t get Ingo back, but Sanders says there are many possibilities for the future, including adoption. She said Ingo will not be euthanized, and from my vantage point, I don’t see how Ibarra could get his dog back, but you never know.
The bond between a dog and police or military working dog handler is usually incredibly tight. Dogs risk their lives for their handlers, and handlers do everything to protect their dogs, and often consider them members of their family.
We never may know went wrong here, but at least Ingo is going to make it, and with a little luck, he’ll have a future with lots of love and plenty of food.